Profs get $248k grant to study ‘gender microaggressions’

The NSF has awarded three Iowa State University professors more than $248,000 to study “gender microaggressions” in engineering, claiming that the research will ultimately help students “feel safe.” 

On August 13, the taxpayer-funded National Science Foundation (NSF) granted funding for the study “Collaborative Research: An Intersectional Perspective to Studying Microaggressions in Engineering Programs,” which is slated to cost taxpayers at least $248,744 over the next four years.

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Engineering professor Cristina Poleacovschi—who will lead the project over the next four years—told Campus Reform that microaggressions are important to study in academia because they cause harm to students, especially minorities. 

“I find microaggressions particularly interesting because they are normalized in our everyday life but have significant consequences over time,” said Poleacovschi, who explained that the idea for the research came from her personal experience in engineering. 

“The contribution of this grant is bringing an intersectionality perspective to the concept of microaggressions where we consider the interconnected nature of race and gender,” she explained.

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Ultimately, the $248,744 grant will culminate in a research project that “will collect stories from diverse identity groups in order to obtain a well-rounded understanding of microaggressions in engineering programs.” 

According to the grant abstract, the professors’ first task will be to create a list of individual microaggressions suffered by each individual identity group, including white men, Latina women, African American men, and Asian women. 

Poleacovschi wouldn’t say exactly how the funds will be spent for this project, but noted that NSF grants can typically be used to hire graduate students, purchase supplies, buy statistical software, and compensate the lead researchers.

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When pitching her project to the NSF, Poleacovschi argued that increasing awareness of microaggressions will “contribute to diversifying engineering programs through increased awareness of the subtle behaviors that engineering students experience in college.” 

“Creating an environment where minority students feel safe and included allows educating a competitive workforce which will ultimately positively impact our society by incorporating the needs and perspectives of all student groups,” she asserted.

University of Iowa Professors Gloria Jones-Johnson and Scott Feinstein will contribute to the research project, which is expected to be finished by December 2021. The NSF did not respond to a request for comment. 

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